[Foundation-l] Amicus Brief Filed in Golan v. Holder: Fighting for the Public Domain

Lodewijk lodewijk at effeietsanders.org
Wed Jun 22 20:14:09 UTC 2011

Thank you for sharing! This potentially has a big impact indeed, and the
support of the WMF seems more than appropriate.

Is this something the WMF will do more often in the future (or has done in
the past) or is this an extreme exception due to its importance?

With kind regards,


2011/6/22 Geoff Brigham <gbrigham at wikimedia.org>

> Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed an amicus
> ("friends of the court") brief in Golan v. Holder, a case of great
> importance before the Supreme Court that will affect our understanding of
> the public domain for years to come.  See
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golan_v._Holder.  The EFF is representing the
> Wikimedia Foundation in addition to the American Association of Libraries,
> the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Association of
> Research Libraries, the University of Michigan Dean of Libraries, and the
> Internet Archive.
> This case raises critical issues as to whether Congress may withdraw works
> from the public domain and throw them back under a copyright regime.  In
> 1994, in response to the U.S. joining of the Berne Convention, Congress
> granted copyright protection to a large body of foreign works that the
> Copyright Act had previously placed in the public domain.  Affected
> cultural
> goods probably number in the millions, including, for example, Metropolis
> (1927), The Third Man (1949), Prokofiev's Peter in the Wolf, music by
> Stravinsky, paintings by Picasso, drawings by M.C. Escher, films by
> Fellini,
> Hitchcock, and Renoir, and writings by George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, and
> J.R.R. Tolkien.
> The petitioners are orchestra conductors, educators, performers, film
> archivists, and motion picture distributors who depend upon the public
> domain for their livelihood.  They filed suit in 2001, pointing out that
> Congress exceeded its power under the Copyright Clause and the First
> Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  They eventually won at the district
> court level, but that decision was overturned on appeal in the Tenth
> Circuit.   The U.S. Supreme Court - which rarely grants review - did so
> here.
> Petitioners filed their brief last week, and you can find it here:
> http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/node/6684.  We are expecting a number of
> parties to file "friends of the court" briefs.   The EFF's brief can be
> found here:  http://www.eff.org/cases/golan-v-holder .
> The Wikimedia Foundation joined the EFF brief in light of the tremendously
> important role that the public domain plays in our mission to "collect and
> develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain,
> and to disseminate it effectively and globally."  We host millions of works
> in the public domain and are dependent on thousands of volunteers to search
> out and archive these works.  Wikimedia Commons alone boasts approximately
> 3
> million items in these cultural commons.  To put it bluntly, Congress
> cannot
> be permitted the power to remove such works from the public domain whenever
> it finds it suitable to do so.  It is not right - legally or morally.   The
> Copyright Clause expressly requires limits on copyright terms.  The First
> Amendment disallows theft from the creative commons.  Such works belong to
> our global knowledge.  For this reason, we join with the EFF and many
> others
> to encourage the Court to overturn a law that so threatens our public
> domain
> - not only with respect to the particular works at issue but also with
> respect to the bad precedent such a law would set for the future.
> We anticipate the Court will reach a decision sometime before July 2012.
> --
> Geoff Brigham
> General Counsel
> Wikimedia Foundation
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> foundation-l at lists.wikimedia.org
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l

More information about the foundation-l mailing list